The Regional Economic Studies Institute (RESI) at Towson University is the source for the latest data and analysis on Maryland’s economy. Each month, RESI Chief Economist Dr. Daraius Irani provides an analysis of the latest Maryland unemployment numbers. His analysis ensures business leaders have key information needed to determine how Maryland’s economic status impacts their organization.

On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its preliminary employment estimates for Maryland in August 2017. For the fourth straight month, Maryland’s unemployment rate fell by a tenth of a percent where it now sits at 3.9 percent. Maryland’s labor force grew by roughly 5,000 people and the number of unemployed residents fell by 2,000. In the Mid-Atlantic Region (Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Washington DC), the unemployment rate fell to 4.4 percent. The regional rate decreased because fewer people were unemployed, but also because the labor force as a whole shrank. These numbers indicate Maryland’s economy is strong compared to the regional economy. While the unemployment rate fell in the Mid-Atlantic region, it did so because more people left the labor force as discouraged workers and stopped even looking for work. In contrast, in Maryland, the unemployment rate fell even as formerly discouraged workers re-entered the labor force.

In total, Maryland added 14,200 total nonfarm jobs in August. 9,700 of these jobs were in the private sector and 4,500 were government jobs. Among government jobs, Federal Government jobs fell by 1,200, while State Government and Local Government jobs rose by 200 and 5,500 jobs respectively. This large rise in Local Government jobs partially corrects the large decrease in the sector last month, when the state lost 6,000 Local Government jobs. Since August 2016, the Local Government sector has added 4,400 jobs, an increase of 1.76 percent. The map below shows how Local Government employment changed in the Mid-Atlantic Region in August.

Map showing percent change in local government employment in the Mid-Atlantic Region for August 2017.

Growth in the private sector was driven by gains in the Mining, Logging, and Construction sector. In August, Maryland gained 3,200 jobs for a monthly growth rate of 1.9 percent. Maryland’s growth in this sector was the strongest of all Mid-Atlantic states. Across the other states in the Mid-Atlantic region, Mining, Logging, and Construction employment only increased by 300 jobs. The monthly percentage changes in employment in this sector are shown in the map below.

Map showing percent change in Mining, Logging, and Construction employment in the Mid-Atlantic Region for August 2017.

In addition to Mining, Logging, and Construction, Health Care and Social Assistance exhibited strong gains in August, with 2,300 new Maryland employees working in the sector. In contrast, Maryland’s neighbors saw employment in this sector decline by 2,700 jobs. Maryland’s Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services sector also continued to grow, adding 3,100 jobs in August and growing by 1.2 percent. This sector has grown by 23,500 jobs and is one of Maryland’s premier industries, driven primarily by government contracting and strong research facilities in-state.

Although most sectors of Maryland’s economy grew in August, some sectors declined. For example, Educational Services declined by 2,700 jobs last month. However, RESI is not calling for alarm here. Last month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the sector added 6,900 jobs. These large swings are likely artifacts of the seasonal adjustments made by the government to control for spikes in employment, such as when schools start up. What’s likely is that employers in Educational Services hired for the coming school year a little early this year, throwing off the seasonal adjustment process.

While it’s wishful thinking to say that all job losses seen in the state are the result of arcane statistical processes and haven’t really taken place, that can’t hold true for all sectors of the economy. Nevertheless, Maryland’s economy continues to strengthen and improve, not just relative to itself month over month, but compared to the region and nation as a whole. Stay tuned to TU Innovates to get the most up-to-date insight into the Maryland economy.